6 Lessons Learned on Building Awesome Developer Communities from CMX Summit

Nov 23, 2016

CMX Summit is an annual conference for community managers featuring top tier experts from companies like Google, Slack, and Salesforce. Speakers cover topics ranging from how to grow developer communities from scratch to member engagement to measuring ROI on community. Fortunately for me, the CMX Summit is hosted in San Francisco, where I live and work, making it possible to connect with the world’s top community managers right in my backyard.

This year CMX divided the talks into two tracks - Developer Community & Support Community. I was stoked to see the focus on developer community. As an open source framework, community is one of our highest priorities at Serverless. I was especially looking forward to learning more about how Amir Shevat (Slack) and Adriana Cerundolo (Google) were engaging their communities.

Here are a few takeaways on how to build a thriving developer community from my 2016 CMX experience.


1. Focus on high value developers.

The Pareto Principle states that 80% of activity comes from 20% of the population. So when you’re determining how to move the needle in your community, it's important to focus on your top contributors. They provide the highest ROI.

2. Build simplicity and predictability for a successful community.

The natural progression of developer engagement in an open source community is:

  • Discovery - Onboarding has to be simple and developers need to have all the necessary info to get started.
  • Setup Toolchains - Also needs to be super easy, as in one click.
  • Develop Skills - Early beginners don’t have the knowledge to be creative yet, so it’s important to show them what’s possible.
  • Find Tasks - If people can't easily see (in the same place every time) what needs to be done, then they’ll go and work on other projects.
  • Get Help - Make sure that forum and support questions are answered consistently to keep people coming back, and to make it obvious to users where to go for help.
  • Feel Appreciated - As developers become deeply embedded in your community, make sure that they’re recognized and appreciated.

Each of these steps represents a potential stumbling block for turning developers into core members of your community. Figuring out how to remove all pain points is crucial to success.

3. Developer Communities belong under Product, not Sales or Marketing.

This is something to keep in mind as your community continues to grow. Leverage your community to make your product better and cultivate future users. But be aware of turning developers off by spamming them with marketing lingo or trying to sell them stuff.

4 Empathy is king.

It's easy to get excited about launching new programs and building new features that you think are cool. But it's important to listen to the community and hear what they care about. Communication is a two-way street.

5. Measure, measure, and measure some more.

The only way to truly understand the health and success of a community is by measuring key metrics over time. Determine which metrics you can track to see how dynamic your community is. Some key metrics that Gina Bianchi from Mightybell recommended tracking are monthly active users and monthly active user growth. Here at Serverless we define an active user as anybody who's run at least four commands in the last 30 days.

6. Make your community FUN!

This was a common theme among every speaker. Most of us face fierce competition in our respective markets. Figure out how to make your community fun and engaging, and people will stay and attract more members, no matter how many more marketing dollars the other guy is spending.


These are just a few of the highlights from CMX Summit 2016. It was so inspiring to hear how other companies are prioritizing community management. We’ve already started incorporating these lessons into our strategy at Serverless. We’ll let you know how it goes. You can check out the CMX website for more helpful articles about community.

Want to get involved in the Serverless Community? Join us on GitHub, the Serverless Forum, Gitter, Twitter or by writing a guest post for the blog. We’re always open to feedback. Let us know what you think!

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